Flying Yankees celebrate aircraft roll out
By Maj. Jefferson S. Heiland, 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published November 02, 2013
BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE - East Granby, Conn. -- The 103rd Airlift Wing celebrated the arrival of the first out of eight C-130H aircraft expected to be assigned to the unit during a formal ceremony on Oct. 5, 2013, despite complications and logistical consequences presented by the 16-day federal government shutdown.
The bulk of the unit's full-time force was furloughed and its part-time Airmen remained in a holding pattern with the unit's training assembly cancelled until further notice.
"I wondered what would happen if I hosted a 103rd roll-out ceremony and no one showed up," said Col. Frank Detorie, commander of the 103rd Airlift Wing. "Fortunately, that didn't happen...despite many of you being furloughed...you all came up anyway. That's representative of the dedication, passion and excitement you all have."
The base was manned by a skeleton crew of Active Guard Reserve members and a handful of excepted technicians who remained on the job due to the nature of their status or specific responsibilities. This team pitched in and filled roles normally handled by furloughed staff and ensured the event was a success. The crew was joined by a host of off-duty, furloughed Airmen who attended the event to simply celebrate the occasion.
"When I was asked to help work the camera for the roll out ceremony, I felt really honored. I knew it was an event that would signify the beginning of our exciting new mission and I was so happy to be even a small part of its success," said Tech. Sgt. Amy A. Robison, 103rd Maintenance Operations Flight, who stepped in to help document the historic event. "I think it's days like this that I will remember when I look back at my career in the Connecticut Air National Guard--days when we worked together to accomplish a mission, despite whatever roadblock was thrown in our way," she said. "We knew we had a job to do and we all pulled together to get it done. It didn't matter what our rank or AFSC was, we just did what needed to be done and it felt really great to be part of such a wonderful team."
Despite the added challenges, the unit's bright future remained the focus of the day as the Airmen marked the end of more than a decade of mission changes and a fluctuating vision of the future.
"We've been in kind of a turmoil and uncertainty. Now we have a path," said Detorie. "It means we will be here serving and relevant for decades to come."
The ceremony culminated with the unveiling of a C-130H rear stabilizer mock up emblazoned with the Flying Yankees thunderbolt tail flash. Distinguished guests including Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman were then escorted to the newly-assigned Hercules for a personal tour.
"The arrival of the C-130 mission finally brings some much needed stability to the men and women of the Connecticut Air National Guard after many years of change and uncertainty," said Maj. Gen. Thaddeus J. Martin, The Adjutant General and commander of the Connecticut National Guard.
Now that the aircraft has arrived, the main focus is on converting the 103rd over to the C-130 mission set. Not only does the maintenance squadron have their hands full, but other organizations on base have to train to operate the C-130.
"It's definitely going to be a change from what we're used to," said Maj. Chris Papa, a pilot with the 118th Airlift Squadron. "We just got to get some guys hired, we got to get some crew over here--some load masters and engineers and navigators; guys that we certainly didn't have in the past."
According to Col. Jerry McDonald, commander of the 103rd Maintenance Group, the next big step for them is to get everybody trained because right now they know little about the C-130.
"We need to know enough by January in order to start a flying mission here, and that's an extremely large hill to climb," he said.
This is something that the 103rd does not have to do alone though. Right now, Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard